Gordon's Sk8er Boi Blog

My adventures as an adult male figure skater in Tucson, Arizona Portland, Oregon Chandler, Arizona.

Friday, January 30, 2004

Edge Pressure

I had my second lesson with Anna today at our usual time. I had about 15 minutes to warm up, which was just sufficient to look at most of my stuff include the FO3s. My RFO3s had deserted me but I managed to get 'em back, more or less.

We started off doing some basic stroking, looking for extension and general flow. She's more or less pleased although my left leg extension is much weaker than the right leg, as is to be expected at this point.

After that we went to look at... Mohawks! We had worked on these on Wednesday a bit, but we went at them again. The RFI open Mohawk (RFIOM) we made some good progress; specifically at getting good rotation, not breaking at the waist, leading with the arms, and keeping my head up. We went on to look at the LFI, and that is not yet happening. We spent some time on it with minimal progress.

We went on to look at edges. My FO edges are not bad, but my FI edges are a little weak. We worked on getting a better flow to them by doing a 5-count of:

  1. Push (initial push-off)
  2. Set (feel the edge correctly)
  3. Scissors (switch the arm positions with a scissor action, not rotation)
  4. Foot (bring the free foot/leg forward)
  5. Switch (switch to the opposite foot)

She also emphasized that even when I bring the free leg forward I still need to be leading with the skating hip. This is actually something that Linda had had me working on a while back -- not letting the free hip rotate forward.

After that we went on to look at backward crossovers, which I told her I can't yet do. So we worked on skating backward and seeing if I can get set up correctly for backward crossovers. While I know what the motion is I'm not getting enough separation between the forward and backward blades to do the crossover; and of course I can't look down to see if it's happening since that will throw my balance off. So from there we just worked on skating backward on one foot and trying to get good kneebend in the skating leg and good extension forward on the free leg. That's where we left it.

Anna gave me some specific homework (icework?) for next week. The first was to work on my hockey stops, with the specific goal of getting more.... edge pressure (of course). The second was to work on skating backwards on one foot, feeling the weight placement, pressing into the ice more, and extending the free leg in front (not behind). This is to help me on backward crossovers.

Following the lesson I stayed for the remaining 45 minutes and worked on these issues and others. I also got to see one of the adult skaters (Lisa) working on her program for the meet at our rink in March. It's a nice program.

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Thursday, January 29, 2004

Homage to Kwan

Check out this article from last year, Chance to see Kwan skate: Priceless. Wessler is very eloquent and gets it just right. I blogged about this (on my regular blog) last year, but the article has now been moved.

She is Michelangelo, and the ice is her chapel.

Also, see Kwan's ice show still hot, an interview from this week:

FT: Are you leaning toward competing in the 2006 Winter Olympics?

MK: Definitely. It seems like yesterday that it was 2002. It's tough to commit to anything like that, but I'm definitely having fun competing. Why stop a good thing, you know?

Wednesday, January 28, 2004


I was, once more, tempted to title this Whee! or perhaps Yahoo!, but I'll settle for being more descriptive. I had my first (regular) private lesson with Anna today, and it was terrific!

I was not feeling well when I woke up this morning, so I called in sick to work and wound up sleeping until 2 p.m. (about 13 hours total). Not an auspicious beginning. When I got up, though, I felt much better. In any event, since I'd waited so long for this lesson I'd have gone even if I didn't feel well. As it happened, by the time my lesson rolled around I felt pretty good.

I got to the rink plenty early (7 p.m.) and so had plenty of time to get my skates on and get warmed up. After about a 20 minute warmup we started my lesson around 7:25 or so.

We started first by having me work through some warmup things, in particular the alternating 1/2 swizzles I tend to use as a warmup. Anna had me work on doing them with more kneebend and more power ("I know you have a lot more power than that!" she said). From there we also did some slaloms to work on using my knees more. Then it was on to forward crossovers. She emphasized getting turned into the circle more and getting a better body position. In general she seemed relatively happy with them though, so after looking at both the CCW and CW ones we went on to 3-turns.

On the LFO3 she emphasized: keeping my arms extended in a good position, keeping my free leg close to my body and the free foot pointed down, and not dropping my shoulders but keeping them level. With this I did some great LFO3s. We went on to the RFO3s and applied the same methodology, with the result that I finally was able to do some passable RFO3s. I was so psyched! I've been working on these for so long with so little progress, it was like the skating gods smiling on me.

From there we went to look at the FI3s, and I tried both right and left. These are going to take more work although I did one of them (RFI3) kind of okay.

At the end of the lesson we looked briefly at the RFI open Mohawk. She said I'm making too much of it, and making it too complicated. She had me try one on the circle, and it was SO much easier and better. I was really psyched. And with that, our time was up. All in all we had probably 35 minutes worth.

I could go on and on about how great this lesson was, but I'll leave it at what I've said above, except to say I have a really wonderful feeling of hope and progress that is just invaluable.

After my lesson I skated 'til 9:30, mostly working on the same stuff (FO3s, crossovers, edges, etc.). I didn't work too much on the Mohawks or FI3s. We'll be back to my usual schedule (Fridays at noon) now.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Health Benefits of Skating

A cool article on the health benefits of skating....

The American College of Sports Medicine says that on average, for every hour of skating, a 150-pound person burns about 600 calories. That's about the same as running five miles in an hour. Just circling the rink is healthful. Adding the basic skills of skating — forward and backward crossovers, turning, stopping and changing feet — increases the health benefits to about 800 to 900 calories per hour.

Monday, January 26, 2004

Physical Therapy

I thought I'd mention some things about my physical therapy in hopes they'll be helpful to others. I'm in physical therapy because of a bad fall I experienced October 5th. I started physical therapy Dec. 30th and have been going twice a week (except for a 2-week break when I was traveling for work). Many of the exercises I've been doing would, I suspect, be helpful to skaters in general.

The two areas I'm working are my left ankle and my left rotator cuff (shoulder). For the ankle I've been doing a number of exercises:

  • Balancing on my left foot, standing on a trampoline, I throw and catch a 2-lb. medicine ball.
  • I use a weight machine to do "resistive walking", walking against the pull of the weights. This is trivial going backward or forward, but going sidewise (no crossovers allowed) it's quite tiring, especially when pushing off with my left foot/ankle.
  • I use a Theraband (stretchy thing) tied around my ankle and pull toward/against the resistance at 6 points of the circle (12,2,4,6,8,10). This is a GREAT exercise to strengthen your ankle.
  • I pull against the Theraband tied around my good foot while balancing on my bad left foot.

For my shoulder I mostly concentrate on keeping my shoulder blades more squeezed together. My therapist says that I tend to hold my shoulders forward, which means that the arm doesn't want to stay back in the socket as it should. She thinks that even without the fall I would have eventually had some aches and pains because of this, so in a way it's a good thing. She's been working with me to strengthen the muscles around/below my shoulder blades (don't remember what they are called) so I use them more and put less pressure on the other muscles in my shoulder. For skating this should help me to have a better check when turning CCW, so it's a good thing. For turning/checking CW I will need to remember not to hunch my shoulders.

My therapist has also pointed out that I tend to drop my head/look down, which probably goes with my hunched shoulders but is certainly bad for skating. I'll have to work on all this. The good news is that once again skating is going to be good for my overall health by encouraging/helping me to correct these problems.

Saturday, January 24, 2004

Saturday Zoo

I went to the public session today as was/is my custom, after my yoga class. It was incredibly crowded and very frustrating. I got a little work on my FO3s, the left is getting good but the right is still stuck. Worked on my crossovers extensively, they are continuing to improve. All in all I didn't accomplish a whole lot, but I did socialize a fair amount.

Friday, January 23, 2004

Coffee Club 3-Turns

I went to coffee club today. I was supposed to have my first lesson with Anna today at noon, but when I got to the rink the woman at the counter told me Anna had called to say she had a family emergency and wouldn't be able to come :-(. I hope everything is okay with her.

In some respects it's just as well, because I was extremely rusty and it took me much longer than the 15 minutes I would otherwise have had to warm up; more like half an hour. After that I was in pretty good form. I worked on all my usual stuff. I'm really pleased with my forward crossovers; they are notably less clunky than they used to be and are starting to have some flow. What I'm noticing in particular is that, at least doing them in tight circles, I'm really getting a feeling of thrusting with the skating foot as the free foot is crossing over. I'm pretty sure that's right, and it seems pretty good.

Since I didn't have my own lesson I went ahead and participated in the coffee club group lesson. Cecilia asked what we wanted to work on, so I said 3-turns since no one else volunteered anything; and so we did. My LFO3 is much improved (I'm actually holding the exit edge for a bit). My RFO3 is still having problems. Cecilia says I need more kneebend ("Duh!") to make it flow, and since my back edges are still quite weak there's only so much I'll be able to do with them. All in all it was a good 1.5 hours of skating.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Long Time No Skate, or, Home Ice Is Best

I skated for about an hour and 15 minutes Sunday afternoon at the Oxnard Ice Center, since I was visiting friends in Oxnard. I had not skated for almost 2 weeks (since the 5th)! It was very weird to have been off the ice for so long, and then to be on foreign ice... hmmph.

I have yet to figure out why it is that home ice seems so much better. It seems ludicrous to me to conceive that Gateway's ice is actually better than all the other places I've visited, so I assume it's really just that it's what I'm used to. Still, I didn't like the Oxnard rink's ice for several reasons:

  • The ice seemed very thin
  • The ice seemed very soft
  • The rink wasn't well lit, and in spite of the fact it was a Sunday afternoon, the lighting consisted only of 3 rows of lights plus the colored disco lights.
  • The painted lines and other hockey features seemed to be flaking
  • The building was not, as far as I could tell, built to be a rink, but was converted later. The rink surface was about 6 inches above the floor. I found it very disconcerting to have to step up/down to enter/exit the ice.

It was good to be on the ice again, though. I managed to work on most of my usual stuff, although I didn't try any spirals or RFI open Mohawks. Everything seemed to be more-or-less where I left it.

Another Adult Skater

Yet another inspiring story of a 57-year-old woman who is not hanging up her skates.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Adult Skating Taking Off

Here's a nice article about how adult skating is becoming more popular.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

MK Can Do No Wrong?

I was reading e-sk8r's entry where she comments on Michelle Kwan's Nationals performance:

Need to add something after having digested more of MK's skate at Nationals. Let me say this: I think it was one of HER greatest skates, and was obviously the best on that night. When I think back, I notice what I have almost always felt was lacking in MK's skating was that I, as a spectator, didn't feel a lot when she skated. An example, I remember her East of Eden program----I felt something from that one. However, technically, there was no one close. I liked Jenny Kirk's interpretation of the music better than MK's interpretation of music, but I don't like Jenny Kirk's skating as much, as she appears weak and "on the ice" as opposed to "in the ice". The most interesting thing about all of this is that when I talked to coach today SHE AGREED with me. I am usually the odd man out with my opinions about MK, as MK can do no wrong in the skating world. Anyway...just my opinion.

As anyone who's read this blog for a while has figured out, I am a big MK fan. Indeed, watching her has a lot to do with why I started skating to begin with. That said, for me watching MK skate has a lot to do with the music. If I like the music, I usually like what she does with it. If I don't like the music I may or may not like the skating that goes with it. Being a very musical person I suppose that's understandable. I've only been watching her a lot for the last couple of years, although I've followed her somewhat since the '98 Olympics.

Of all the MK programs I've seen, I think my favorites are:

  1. 2003 Worlds "Aranjuez"
  2. 2002 Olympics "Fields of Gold" (exhibition)
  3. 1998 Nationals "Lyra Angelica"
  4. 1998 Olympics "On My Own" (exhibition)

"Tosca" was an excellent program and while I was really impressed by her performance (in particular the way she has managed to improve her technical merit while keeping her presentation mark high), it's not (IMHO) the one I'll remember. The ones that echo in my mind are Aranjuez and Fields of Gold -- I can see those moves in my sleep, especially the Charlotte spiral and the Aranjuez footwork (awesome!) and of course the change-edge spiral. What most gets me in a program isn't spins, it's footwork and connecting moves, followed by jumps. I'm more impressed by grace and flow than by strength, speed or power. MK generally excels at the former, but has clearly been improving the latter -- a combination which may well prove unstoppable.

I also meant to comment on Sasha Cohen's exhibition -- the woman is an amazing, amazing skater. The extension on her spirals is just incredible, and she has the best split-jumps of any skater I've seen. With Robin Wagner coaching her, perhaps she can settle herself and unleash the greatness inside.

Update: USA Today's Christine Brennan has a good column on MK's future.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Skating Withdrawal

I've had a cold for the last several days, so in a fit of common sense I decided not to go skating today, in spite of the fact that I've not skated since 1/5 and won't have an opportunity to go for a week or maybe slightly longer. The disturbing part is that it's possible I won't have a chance to go skating before my lesson on 1/23. Grrr.


Michelle Kwan has won her 8th US National title. I just got done watching my tape, and I have to say it was a terrific, terrific long program. She was incredible last year, and this program was stronger even than that as you could tell by her marks -- last year's Aranjuez program got, if I remember, 5.7s and 5.8s for technical merit, but this program (Tosca) got almost all 5.9s. As we have come to expect, MK's presentation scores were amazing. She now has 35 perfect 6.0s at Nationals, which according to ABC is almost 4 times the nearest competitor. An amazing performance. My only criticism (if I have the cheek to comment) is that I don't like the music very much. I thought the Aranjuez music was much more uplifting and stimulating. Still, obviously Tosca worked for her. I'll be very curious to see what MK uses in the exhibition tomorrow.

Friday, January 09, 2004

Cohen Ahead

I didn't get to see them, but Sasha Cohen is in first place at US Nationals after the short program. MK was second and Jenny Kirk was third.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004


I am in Indianapolis for the rest of the week for a work trip (a crisis). I had to cancel my Friday lesson with Anna. :-(. Grrr! I was so looking forward to it. *sigh*

Monday, January 05, 2004

Michelle At Nationals Again

A really cool article on my hero, Michelle Kwan -- The Champion: Still-driven Kwan has the complete résumé except for one detail. The things I love about MK the most -- her skating, her skating, her skating. Beyond that, it's her attitude -- she's very healthy, she takes her ups and downs and just does her best. I had the privilege of watching her skate from the front row in 2002 when Champions on Ice came to Tucson... amazing. She skated to "Fields of Gold" and besides the overwhelming beauty of it, the thing that struck me the most is that MK loves to skate. Sometimes I think when you get good at something (like singing, to use another example) you can lose track of how it made you feel to begin with. MK clearly loves to win, and to compete, yes -- but she loves to skate, and it shows. What a skater.

Thanks to Heather's MK Fan Page (an invaluable MK resource) for the link.

Backward Wiggles

Since my choir practices don't start until next week, I went to the public session tonight. I worked on a wide variety of things, but mostly crossovers and 3-turns. I did about 10 LFO3s in a row, and managed to get about 5 where I was somewhat able to hold the LBI exit. I tried doing some RFO3s but each time I still have the same problem -- I get rotated and then I just stop. I'm not sure if I'm just not getting quite enough rotation (although the tracing looks good) or what. I'll have to ask Anna at my lesson.

My crossovers are slightly improved. I'm getting a little better kneebend on them and that is making them a bit smoother. Feeling brave I practiced a spiral (left foot) along the boards so I could grab it if necessary. That went okay so I actually tried a couple out on the ice. I didn't fall, which is a good start. I am sure my extension and leg height were pathetic, but of course I can't see. Still, I can work on them and that's a start. Of course I did a few lunges and two-foot spins and those are not too bad.

Since the session was not too crowded, I spend a fair amount of time skating backwards. In some ways the main thing holding me back from getting better at them, I think, is that I can't do backward crossovers, so it's hard to get much speed up to work on backward glides. Backward crossovers are definitely something I'll have to work on with Anna.

The amusing part of tonight's practice (and thus the title) was that just before the session ended, it occurred to me (as some of you who've read my blog from the beginning will remember) that I had never learned to do the "backward wiggle" (a Basic 1 skill), I just went straight to backward swizzles. Anyway, I decided to give 'em a try, and lo and behold, I can do them now! I was very amused and practiced 'em for 5 minutes or so. Of course they are quite boring, but I was still pleased.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

Saturday Zoo

Today I was back to my old Saturday routine, yoga from 11 - 12:15 followed by skating 1-4. As usual it was fairly crowded for the session.

I spent most of my time working on (again) crossovers and 3-turns. It was much too crowded to even consider working on backward skating, and as it was I had one collision anyway (nobody hurt). The LFO3 is really getting much better. Continuing my idea of looking into the circle during the turn along with trying to get better knee bend and not force it so much, I turned out 2 or 3 really good ones out of maybe 20 - 30 attempts. Those 2 or 3 were more or less right on, including holding the LBI exit edge for a few feet. I'm not sure what I need to do to be more consistent on these except, of course, to practice them more. I worked on the RFO3s but they are still very rough.

I spent a goodly amount of time on forward crossovers, and in particular CW crossovers. These are really improving, and I'm pretty surprised because I am seeing now that they truly are better than the CCW ones in a couple of ways. It's true my crossing action is not as smooth CW vs CCW; but I am getting better lean and a more consistent rhythm of push-cross-step-repeat. The CCW ones are improving too. It's encouraging in the extreme.

I was really in a good zone for this skate and I was reluctant to leave. With luck I'll get to skate Monday and Wednesday nights before my lesson with Anna on Friday.

Friday, January 02, 2004

Life Without Skating?

I came across this article, Hughes satisfied with her new life. It made me feel a little weird. I mean, it's her life and all, but I can't imagine having been so into the sport to begin with; and so I subsequently can't imagine having made it to the top like that and then feeling so burnt out as to leave it all behind. Part of me says it's a really good thing for her, and part of me just wonders how she can stay away from the ice.

Coffee Club

I went to coffee club today. Spent time working on crossovers and 3-turns, mostly. I've decided one of my problems with crossovers is that I need more lean. Strangely enough I seem to get somewhat better lean on the CW ones, I'm not sure why that is. I spent a fair amount of time on the CW crossovers (in accordance with my resolutions!) and they are actually coming along. On the LFO3 I tried something that I'd been thinking about yesterday, and that is to look into the circle in the middle of the turn. I'd read somewhere that that can be a cause of not being able to hold the exit edge. It did seem to help quite a bit, although the LBI is still shaky and I can't hold it long. Still it counts as progress.

During the lesson we looked at swingrolls. A swingroll is like a MITF edge except you point your free foot behind you at the start, then at the top of the circle you bring it forward and point it again; also you don't rotate your arms but leave them in a neutral position. This is very hard. After a couple of tries at that Linda suggested I go back to something she'd had me working at on 12/27 during my last group lesson, namely to do the edge without any rotation. This is also hard, but it's coming. It's really hard to keep the free hip from rotating. She said this is an important thing, to be able to control the rotation on the free hip.

There was a Good Skater there during most of the session; I think her name is Kendra. Anyway it was very distracting to try to concentrate on a lesson, I wanted to just watch her. She had a very nice Axel, very high and smooth.

One of the other people at the session was, apparently, one of Anna's other students. She is apparently working on the alternating forward 3-turns for Adult Pre-Bronze MITF. She is a much better skater than I in general, so in a way it was gratifying to see that it's hard for her too. I'm a little curious what the step is from one lobe to another on this, I wasn't watching closely enough. I would assume it's a back choctaw, since you would need to step from (e.g.) an LBI to RFO. I'll have to ask about this.

Thursday, January 01, 2004


New Year's Day wouldn't be complete without some resolutions... so here we go, my resolutions for 2004:

  • I will practice my right-foot, weak-side moves AT LEAST as much as the strong side, so as not to become a one-direction skater.
  • I will work on the hard things more and not practice the fun stuff quite so much -- after all it's only with practice that the "hard things" become "fun things".
  • I will not procrastinate on sharpening my blades.
  • I will not push myself too hard when I'm tired.
  • I will take time to enjoy the process of skating more.

It's my goal to learn all of the Basic 8 skills solidly (SOLIDLY) by the end of the year. Actually I would hope that with Anna's coaching it won't take that long, but it seems like a reasonable goal.

Happy New Year

For New Year's Eve I went out to dinner with an old friend and his family, and then we all went skating (and it wasn't even my idea; they've been doing this for a couple of years). It was rather different to be skating with a bunch of people I know. A few observations...

  • I really have come a long way. I can skate better than most people my age, even if they've been skating since childhood.
  • Just stroking around the rink gets old. It's still good exercise though :-).
  • I'm not good company when I go skating, I'm much too interested in working on stuff.
  • The stuff that I know how to do so far is mostly not going to impress anyone. The only moves that I can do that seem impressive are the lunge and my two-foot spin.

Anyway, it was a lot of fun, albeit only for an hour or so. I considered going tonight (there's a public session) but since I'm skating Friday and Saturday I decided to leave it alone.